December 03, 2022
Election


Election

Ex-WJOL host ousted over new policy for on-air talent running for office

FCC regulations require radio stations to entertain requests for equal air time opportunities to qualified political candidates

wjol, radio, joliet, crest hill, media

A former WJOL-AM radio host was let go from his job last week after being unable to get all of his election opponents to waive their right to equal opportunity for air time, a policy the company recently implemented.

Alpha Media, the company that runs WJOL, will no longer allow on-air employees to remain on the air while running for office unless they get their opponents to sign such a waiver, Brian Foster, the market manager at the station, said.

Last week, Alpha Media let go of Kevin Kollins, whose real name is Kevin Hedemark, after he filed to run in the Democratic primary for a seat on the Will County Board. He spent 12 years at the company.

Hedemark’s role hosting his afternoon show on WJOLand the morning show on Alpha Media’s 96.7-FM could have created a conflict for the company because of Federal Communications Commission rules that require a station to allow for equal air opportunities for other candidates.

Hedemark said he asked the other candidates running in Will County Board District 9 to sign the waiver. District 9 encompasses much of Romeoville and parts of Bolingbrook.

The two other candidates in the Democratic primary are incumbent Margaret Tyson of Bolingbrook and Destinee Ortiz of Romeoville. Incumbent Raquel Mitchell, of Bolingbrook, is the only Republican running in the district.

Will County Board meet fully in person for the first time in nearly two years at the Will County Office Building. Thursday, Mar. 17, 2022, in Joliet.

However, only Tyson and Mitchell agreed and signed the waiver. Ortiz did not.

Hedemark’s opponents said they were offered some air time on WJOL in exchange for signing the waiver.

Still, Ortiz said she declined because she did not want to allow Hedemark to have the advantage of remaining on the radio during the campaign.

“It would be an advantage for me to not sign this,” she said. “He has name recognition. He’s putting his personality name on the ballot.”

Hedemark filed to run for the Will County Board as Kevin “Kollins” Hedemark.

Tyson said signing the waiver didn’t bother her and Mitchell said she wasn’t interested in potentially receiving air time on the radio, so she was willing to relinquish her right.

Hedemark wasn’t the only WJOL personality involved in local politics.

WJOL morning host Scott Slocum was appointed to the Channahon Village Board in 2004 and ran to keep his seat in subsequent years, most recently in 2019, according to county election records. The FCC rule would apply if Slocum were in an election cycle, which won’t occur until 2023, if he decides to run for reelection.

Slocum referred questions to Foster.

An illuminated "On Air" sign is seen Thursday at University of St. Francis in Joliet. WCSF 88.7 FM, the university's radio station, is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

Foster said the new policy is in effect “from 2022 and onward.”

During his exit interview, Hedemark said, the company told him it was instituting the new policy for on-air employees. He said he was struck the company didn’t already have a policy before he decided to run for office.

“I was fairly bewildered that the station didn’t have a policy,” he said.

Hedemark said he was willing to do other jobs at the station off the air, but he said the company didn’t have any to offer him.

Mitchell and Tyson expressed sympathy for Hedemark losing his radio job. Ortiz said she “personally commended” Hedemark for being willing to leave his position.

Hedemark added that he held no ill will against his former employer for its action.

“I’m not bitter at the company,” he said. “I don’t feel I was treated unfairly. I knew what the FCC rule was.”

The primary election is June 28.

Alex Ortiz

Alex Ortiz

Alex Ortiz is a reporter for The Herald-News in Joliet. Originally from Romeoville, Ill., he joined The Herald-News in 2017 and mostly covers Will County government, politics, education and more. He earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master's degree from Northwestern University.